Tag Archives: Environment

‘Dagger-faced goons’ murder and eat victim in broad daylight

Williamsburg, Virginia

“A gruesome scene this morning has left a leafy neighborhood in Williamsburg, Virginia, in shock after a newly emerged cicada was murdered, dismembered and eaten in broad daylight.

According to eyewitness accounts, a female Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) pulled the victim off the trunk of a tree, threw it on the ground and stabbed it repeatedly with its needle-like bill. Once the victim was dead, another wren, a male, helped the alleged killer ripped the victim to pieces and began eating it. Later, a female cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), Virginia’s state bird with eyes set on savagery, joined in to help devour the victim.

“It was brutal, just brutal” said a grasshopper who witnessed the attack. “The poor guy emerged right under the bird feeder. That’s just bad luck. That’s like a gazelle being born in a lion’s den.” After pausing to look over his shoulder, the grasshopper said, “But better him than me.”

We were able to obtain an exclusive interview and confession with the alleged killer, who was taking a dirt bath under a bush. “I was going to eat bird seed from the feeder. Then I saw [the cicada] on the tree. It was the size of my head! So much meat. And delicious. Now I don’t have to spend the rest of the day foraging for insects and seeds. I can focus, instead, on removing mites from my feathers.”

Asked if she had any regrets, she said, “Only that after all my work to kill the cicada, that cardinal bullied her way in. But she only got part of the thorax and the wings. I don’t like the wings anyway. Too stringy.”  

The murder happened in the front yard of a Williamsburg resident who saw it happen outside his window. “I saw the wren pecking the ground, then saw the cicada try to fly away. She grabbed it and flipped it on its back. It was gruesome. I didn’t watch the whole thing because I didn’t want to overcook my eggs. That would have ruined my day.”

The victim was a periodical cicada (Magicicada sp.). These insects remain underground as pale grubs for 13 or 17 years then emerge from the ground as winged-adults to find a mate. They are sometimes called “17-year locusts”, which is a misnomer. Locusts are grasshoppers and cicadas are more closely related to shield bugs and assassin bugs.

The grasshopper who witnessed the murder gave perspective on the victim’s life cycle, “Nothing like waiting 17 years in an underground bunker only to be killed and eaten by dagger-faced goons when you come out.”


P.S. This makes my 100th post. Thank you for following! Don’t forget to tell your friends and neighbors. But not the creepy neighbors.




And the spider saltated down beside her

Williamsburg, Virginia

Instead of keeping an eye on my 2-year-old son* at the playground, I watched a jumping spider walk on and jump between a pair of abandoned sandals. It was as though the spider was testing the springiness of insoles as potential launchpads for catching flies. I tried to take his picture, but the spider was shy and launched himself into the grass.

Not the jumping spider I saw, but another found in Virginia. Jumping spiders are harmless to humans. They were also voted Most Adorable in their class (it’s their big eyes). Photo copyright Kim Hosen and courtesy of http://www.pwconserve.org/wildlife/insects/spiders/palejumpingspider.html

Jumping spiders are in the family Salticidae (sal-tis-uh-day), which sounds like a rejected day of the week. The name refers to the spider’s leaping skills. The movements of animals that jump are described as saltatorial (animals that dig – like moles – are fossorial). The word ‘saltate’ come from the Latin, saltus, which means to leap or dance. Do you saltate up and down with joy when you find one more M&M in the bag when thought they were all gone? I do, too. The saltatorial grasshopper, frog, kangaroo and jumping spider all jump and dance in the grass, the pond, the Australian outback, and on the playground sandal.

What happened to the woman who was in the sandals? Maybe a spider sat down beside her and she jumped clean out of them. And given that many of us saltate when we see a spider – regardless if it jumps or not – there may be a spider writing a blog somewhere about the ‘jumping human’ and its saltations.

The spider sandals

*My son is fairly careful and let’s off an alarm that brings judging parents from miles around when he’s anywhere close to danger. He also still requires a hand to hold when he saltates (no M&M’s required).

Ban the Bead and stop brushing your teeth…at least with plastic

Microbeads found in face scrubs. Photo courtesy of Mother Jones and the really stupid idea of putting plastic in face scrubs.

You hang up the phone. Yes. You’ve got a date. You wash your face with your favorite facial scrub and brush your teeth until they’re minty fresh. You are ready to wow your date. And while you sitting there in the movie theater excitedly thinking, “Did her pinky just touch mine!?” thousands of small plastic spheres are making their way from your sink to the sewage treatment plant and then on to the ocean where they may end up in the gut of small fish, possibly killing the fish. A fish that will never have fish dates.

Fish unfriendly? Photo courtesy of Wal-Mart. 

Okay. That sounds a little dramatic and quite frankly ridiculous. The ridiculous part is the scenario above is possible. Everyday tons of plastic in the form of ‘microbeads’ go down our drains and is eventually dumped into our oceans (treated wastewater is routinely emptied into the waterways; microplastics sneak through). These microbeads are in products commonly found in your bathroom from toothpaste (wait, we’re brushing our teeth with plastic!!!) to facial scrubs (wait, we’re scrubbing out face with plastic!!!) to cosmetics to deodorants (wait, why?) to lotions. To think that brushing our teeth could be killing ocean wildlife seems unbelievable. What’s unbelievable is that despite all of our efforts to stop plastic pollution, we are using tiny plastic beads as abrasives in our products and then sending them down the drain and then into our waters.

Though I study marine life I wasn’t even aware of this as being a problem until I read an article this weekend by two of my colleagues (great job, Emily Darling and Ashley Smyth!). And then found a great article in Mother Jones (both are worth a read).

If you don’t want to read the articles (but you really should!), here is the summary.

-There are microplastics in products you use.

-Those products are washed down the drain and then end up in the environment.

-Those microplastics can kill wildlife.

-To protect wildlife stop using these products.

How do you know which products have microplastics in them? Look for polyethylene as an ingredient – it’s the most common form of microbead plastic (there are others and you can find a list here).

Who knew you could save a whale or turtle or fish by not brushing your teeth? Well, at least not brushing your teeth with plastics.

So go ahead and support Ban the Bead movement and stop using products with microbeads and stop worrying if your dating life is killing the planet. Then you can focus on what’s important. Like wondering if she’ll notice if that you didn’t actually wash your shirt but sprayed it with body spray.